Tracing Dad's steps through Germany in WWII
This is the final blog of our visit to Austria and Germany a few months ago. I saved this one for last because it has a very special meaning to me. I actually hadn’t planned on writing and releasing it over Veterans Day weekend, it just worked out that way.
My dad took quite a few photos while he was in Germany during World War II. These have been in my possession for many years - I digitized them a long time ago. When we were preparing to head overseas, I pieced together the locations of several of his photos with the intention of standing where he stood and retaking them. I believe that most of these pictures were taken after the war when he was headed back to his ship to be transported home, but I can’t say for sure. Nonetheless, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity to stand where he stood some 73 years ago.
After we visited Rothenburg ob der Tauber, we headed north to the end of the Romantic Road. This is where we found Marienburg Fortress. The top photo was taken by him and the bottom by me. Not much has changed here other than the trees have grown.
After spending several days in the Black Forest, we headed north. On our way to Berlin, we stopped in the town of Hadamar. Right from the start this town had very bad energy. Prior to and during the war, it was the Nazi Euthanasia Center. More info here. Melissa and I both felt the cloud that still hung over the city. It was creepy. Nonetheless, my dad was there and we found the exact spots where he stood to take pictures…
I have several pictures of my dad in Berlin, however there’s no way to determine exactly where he was. Most likely, the buildings are no longer there, so finding a reference point was impossible. There was one monument that was still there that I didn’t have any trouble finding and identifying…
It was amazing to be able to stand in the same places he stood and see what he saw through the lens. I am so grateful for this opportunity and have been excited to share these photos. I hope you enjoyed!
So, its Veterans Day weekend. I want to add to this post by honoring my dad and his father who was a World War I veteran. I didn’t know my Grandpa Krull as he died in 1971 when I was about a year and a half old.
From what I can tell from military records, he was in a supply company as part of the 7th Infantry and returned to the US in August of 1919. What’s most interesting is that on his military registration paperwork, he claims conscientious objector status, yet still was shipped overseas. I’m sure that story is long buried…
My dad enlisted rather than be drafted on February 11, 1943 - he was 19 years old. The stories he told were of bravery and fear and somehow coming out on the other side alive.
He would often talk about their training in Camp Van Dorn, Mississippi during that summer of 1943 and how unbelievably hot it was for a boy from Buffalo, New York. His crew also went through training in Kansas before being shipped off to Germany.
He would also speak highly of the many life-long friendships he made during his time fighting in World War II. He would go to their annual reunions as often as he could to catch up, talk about old times and have a beer or two. I was lucky enough to attend several of these reunions with him and got to know quite a few of his comrades in arms. One of my favorites is an attorney from the Cincinnati area, John Erhardt. I believe John may be one of the only living members of my dad’s Company, Company M, 254th Infantry, 63rd Division and I’m still in touch with him.
The picture above is from one of their reunions, I’m guessing from the 80s or early 90s. My dad is third from the right standing, John Erhardt is over his right shoulder and his good friend Oscar Lindemann is right in front of him. The gentleman in the red pants is General Arch Hamblen who was my dad’s company commander during his fighting time in Germany.
My dad landed in Marseilles, France near the end of 1944. It was a bitterly cold winter, and they did everything they could to stay warm as they prepared to head north to the front lines. I’m very fortunate to have John Erhardt’s memoir of their time in Germany, so I have an idea of the path they took. We weren’t far from where the were actively fighting when we were in Baden Baden and Grosskarlbach.
The 63rd Infantry Division, and specifically, the 254th Infantry was instrumental in ending the war. This group of kids from all over the country engaged the Germans in an area called Colmar. The fighting was bitter, and they sustained about 50% casualties, but continued on. They were awarded the Croix de Guerre with Palm from the French Government for their bravery in liberating Jebsheim and other towns in the area.
But, their biggest challenge awaited them. The Siegfried Line ran along the western part of Germany and was designed during WWI to stop tanks from entering Germany. Somehow, his division was able to break through the line which enabled allied tanks to drive straight towards Berlin. The war was over before they arrived as the Soviets had taken the city by then.
Somewhere along the way, he received the Bronze Star, although I’ve had trouble finding the exact circumstances for that award.
After the war ended, him, John Erhardt and several others were sent to Berlin to be a part of the occupying force in the city. His job was to escort the civilian governmental personnel to and from work each day, which left him a lot of time during the day and night to get into…trouble.
But, Berlin was safe at this point, and he no longer had to sleep in the snow or worry about a bullet or mortar shell landing on him.
Thank you for sharing our Germany/Austria journey with us. I hope you enjoyed it and have signed up for regular updates from Intentional Assets!